सुबह से शाम तक रोज़ी-रोटी की कहानी
दो पल में बीत गयी चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

कुछ इस तरह भूला है खुदा मेरा मुझको जैसे
एहसान किया देकर चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

कुछ ख्वाब में बीती तो कुछ बिना बात में
मेरे काम आई ना तेरे चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

एक ही ढर्रे पर चल रही थी कई ज़िंदगियाँ
रवायत सी बन गई चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

रोज अगले दिन की तैयारी में बीत गयी
'आज' मिली ही नहीं चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

पहचान को तरसती रही कसमसाती रही
लेकिन चलती रही चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

पीछे मुड़कर देखा तो सहसा याद आया कि
आगे दौड़ी जा रही थी चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

महलों में गुज़री किसी की सड़कों पर लेकिन
बराबर मिली सबको चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

क़ाबिल-ए-बयाँ कहाँ थे यायावर के सुखन
ज़िंदगी खोजती रही चार दिन की ज़िंदगानी

'Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire' by 'Alex von Tunzelmann' is a history book that deals with the events leading to and after the Independence and the Partition of India. It also takes a closer look into the lives of the main players involved in the Indian politics at that time. Most of the history books look into the events and what caused those events. Rarely a book forays into the personal lives of the characters. This book goes beyond just facts and it tells about the chemistry between many leaders involved in the Indian freedom struggle. The build up to Independence was well described by Tunzelmann.

As the cover page suggests, the romantic relationship between Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten is more or less centrestage of the book. In fact, the relationship between Edwina and Louis Mountbatten and their relationships with other men and women were discussed in detail. These were then used to tell that Edwina’s relationship with Nehru was out of mutual admiration for each other’s work and difficulties in their fields. Mountbatten never objected to their relationship as he did for her relations with other men. This closeness between Nehru and Edwina was later subject of gossip in power circles of Delhi and Jinnah believed that it was used to give unfair concessions to India during and post Independence. Even after Independence they kept writing letters to each other and whenever they visited each other’s country, they made it a point to meet each other. Tunzelmann also tells us that Mountbatten and Nehru-Gandhi family refused to share the correspondence between them which could have been used to divulge more details of their relationship as well as that of the freedom struggle and their opinion about the events happening then.

'Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire' by Alex von Tunzelmann
Tunzelmann paints Louis Mountbatten, affectionately known as Dickie, as a person who lacked military acumen but was given critical assignments in Navy because of friendship with powerful persons of his time in United Kingdom and because of his semi-royal lineage. His handling of many events was questioned and he almost died in one such mishap. Then he was given the most important assignment of his life - Viceroyalty of India. His task was cut out before he landed on the Indian soil - to smoothly transfer the power to two successor states - India and Pakistan. How much he succeeded in that is a matter of great debate, but in retrospect it could be said that he could have done little when riots started and when there was no clear border demarcation. Tunzelmann also dwells into the life of Dickie after his service in Navy and discusses about the plot of a coup in United Kingdom in which Dickie was asked to play a significant role.

Two leaders of the freedom movement who commanded great respect and command from public and leaders alike were Gandhi and Jinnah, although they have their appeals limited to sections of the society. Gandhi brought the spirituality into the movement which was till then largely irreligious. His idea of village centered democracy was cheered by the common public but was hotly debated by the leaders like Nehru. Many times in the freedom movement Gandhi took backseat but continued to exert his influence through leaders like Nehru. Nehru needed Gandhi for leadership who can inspire the masses and Gandhi needed someone who can turn his words into the actions. They both needed each other. On the other hand Jinnah, once a staunch supporter of Hindu-Muslim unity, later insisted on separate country of Pakistan. Tunzelmann gives many instances to tell that he may not have thought that he will get Pakistan and this was more likely his bargaining chip. In fact, according to some sources he admitted before dying that creation of Pakistan was the biggest mistake of his life.

The main events after Independence that were described by Tunzelmann are Kashmir problem, accession of Hyderabad and Junagadh states to India. He describes Sardar Patel as iron handed in approach and as one who used all the options available on the table to make princely states accede to India. Nehru handled Kashmir and his association with that state was described by the author to be less pragmatic and more emotional. Probably Nehru’s family roots as a Kashmiri Pandit had much to do with his emotional association with Kashmir. Towards the end of his life his authority deteriorated and he was visibly a lonely man. He made his mind to resign from the post of Prime Minister but was persuaded not to do that.

Tunzelmann’s style of presenting story is credible. The way she recreated the events of history was good, not to forget the analysis of the dilemma and emotions from the letters of that period like those between Edwina and Nehru; and between Jinnah and Churchill. Starting the book with describing India as faring better than England during Aurangzeb’s rule, she went on to describe the ups and downs of the Company Raj and then British Raj. She ends the book on optimistic note that India and Pakistan continue chasing the dream of their forefathers.

Credit should be given to Stephen Hawking for presenting scientific concepts and theories in such a way that a person without any degree in science can understand it. Hawking takes the fascination of the common masses with black holes and time travels to a whole new level. The best thing about this book is the absence of complex mathematical equations although there are few complex mathematical concepts discussed in the book. In his own admission, Hawking says that he was advised that each mathematical equation would halve the readership of the book. In the end, he sticks with the cornerstone of general relativity and one of the most famous equations, E=mc2.

Hawking starts the discussion with the ancient approach to science. He describes the Ptolemaic approach to the universe. Ptolemy extends the earth-centric approach of early Greeks and it was adopted by the Church because it discounted the possibility of heaven, a concept so deeply ingrained in all the religions. Centuries later Galileo and Newton contested the Aristotelian approach. The basic difference between their approach was the method of reaching to the conclusion. Galileo emphasized on the experimental verification while Aristotle believed that everything can be proven by abstract thought. And in that were laid the roots of modern science.

'A Brief History of Time' by 'Stephen Hawking'
In next few chapters, Hawking discusses the Big Bang Theory and Uncertainty Principle. Hawking ponders over "Who we are and how we did we came here." He then proceeds to scientifically justify the Big Bang Theory. The Uncertainty Principle puts rest to the efforts to determine the present state of universe accurately. The Uncertainty Principle leads to development of new branch of science, i.e. quantum mechanics. Subatomic particles and nature of different forces are also discussed.

The black holes have caught the imagination of popular science since few decades. A black hole is formed when a star uses up completely its hydrogen fuel and then because of its gravity contracts inwards. Due to the strong gravitational forces nothing can escape, not even the light. A new thinking has emerged which allows the detection of Gamma rays from black holes thus raising a possibility that black holes are not so black. Hawking uses quantum mechanics to reach to a conclusion that universe has always been there and always will and thus, there is no need to have a creator God.

The most interesting concept is that of the time. There is a possibility that time can go backwards, into the pasts. But this suggestion contradicts the second law of thermodynamics which says that a closed system always behaves in such a way that its entropy increases. Thus movement back through the time is ruled out. Also human memory remembers only the past, not the future. Then Hawking discusses about the dream of physicists to have a unified theory to explain all the phenomena. So far many theories have come, but a single theory to explain them all is yet to come. Hawking accepts the possibility that no unified theory may be possible.

Hawking should be given full marks for explaining such topics in all simplicity. He ends the book with word portraits of Einstein, Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton. As in the introduction of this book Carl Sagan says that although adults do not care much about the understanding of the universe, children do. Adults often turn to religious concepts to explain the unanswerable questions. Hawking refutes such concepts in this book in a very plausible way.

"Sometimes it's better to be with the sheep, who don't say anything. And better still to be alone with one's books. They tell their incredible stories at the time when you want to hear them. But when you're talking to people, they say some things that are so strange that you don't know how to continue the conversation."

The Alchemist is the Guinness Book record holder for maximum number of translations of a book in different languages. This is also the book which made Paulo Coelho famous for the mysticism in his stories. According to Coelho, this book was written only in two weeks and the idea of this story was 'written in his heart'. Originally in Portuguese, The Alchemist promotes optimism and encourages one to follow his dream. It also says that one should not worry about the road not yet traveled. Instead, he should follow his heart, take the road untraveled and face the consequences.
 'The Alchemist' by Paulo Coelho
The story revolves around a young boy Santiago who leaves his home in Spain for pyramids in Egypt for a hidden treasure that he had seen in a dream. He sells his sheep to travel to Egypt. During his quest he is robbed, works for a local merchant and joins a caravan in Sahara desert. Here he meets an English traveler who tells him about a two hundred year old alchemist on an oasis. Because of his dreams, he foresees the coming events and that leads to oasis being saved from an imminent attack. The word spreads and he is called by the alchemist to meet. The alchemist gives him the gold and sends him off to the pyramid. There Santiago is beaten by two men, one of these men tells him that he had seen a similar dream of a hidden treasure beneath a church where Santiago had his original dream.
The story encourages risk taking as depicted by the Santiago's travel to lands from his native home inspired only by a dream. He is robbed and is beaten in his journey but he never abandons his journey. Also while working for the merchant, he encourages the merchant to take risks and this makes both of them rich. He parts with the merchant taking his share of money. Coelho emphasizes on listening to one's heart. As he says, "The boy and his heart had become friends, and neither was capable now of betraying the other." Indeed when presented with many options with none of the options markedly better than the other we should listen to what our heart says because that way we will have less chances of repenting later.
The most famous quote of this book, "when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it", also says to follow one’s dream. In the start, when one is not sure about the outcome of his journey, then these lines by Coelho should inspire him. "Everyone has his or her own way of learning things. His way isn't the same as mine, nor mine as his. But we're both in search of our destinies, and I respect him for that." It was meant to say that one’s journey is not like the journey of any other person. The win or loss of someone should not manipulate others.
While emphasizing dreams and futuristic outlook, Coelho also cautions about that. He says, “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better." In the story, Santiago finds his treasure at his home although he traveled to Egypt for that. Santiago always lived in the present, never repenting for the unfortunate events during his journey and always working to make his present useful to take leap into his dreams from there. Had he not worked at the merchant’s shop after being robbed or not continued his journey after his marriage proposal was rejected by Fatima, he would not have found his treasure.
Although the overall message of optimism runs through the message, sometimes it becomes unrealistic. Continuing with the notion that whatever you want, you will get it if you want it badly, Coelho builds the whole narrative. But this notion is incomplete in sense that it shows only one half of the picture. It never makes you realize the real challenges of the journey and preparedness. Prepared to follow your dream is one thing and prepared to follow the consequences is an altogether different thing. But this book should be read once and it has some nice quotes spread throughout the book.
"We are afraid of losing what we have, whether it's our life or possessions and property. But this fear evaporates when we understand that our life stories and the history of the world were written by the same hand."

नदिया चले, चले रे धारा

हर बार हिमालय की गोद में आकर कल-कल बहते हुए पानी को देखकर वैसे तो बहुत कुछ सीखने को मिलता है, लेकिन ऐसा कुछ है जो कि मन में बस सा गया है। अगर आपने कानपुर और वाराणसी में गंगा के पानी को देखा होगा तो आपको जरूर हृषिकेश में गंगाजल की याद आई होगी, जहाँ पर आप नदी का तल देख सकते हैं, पानी इतना स्वच्छ है। थोड़ा आगे जाकर आपने दूर से देवप्रयाग में भागीरथी और मन्दाकिनी के संगम को भी देखा होगा, जहाँ एक मटमैली धारा एक हरे रंग की धारा के साथ मिलती है। देहरादून जाते समय पथरीली घाटी भी दिखाई दी होगी, जो वैसे तो पूरे साल सूखी रहती है लेकिन बरसात में रौद्र रूप धारण कर लेती है। कसोल में पार्वती नदी को देखकर बस एक ही चीज मन में आती है कि नदी के उस पार तैरकर जाना संभव भी है क्या। और देवरिया ताल में छोटी सी झील को देखकर महाभारत काल में चले जाना स्वाभाविक है क्योंकि मान्यताओं के अनुसार इसी झील के किनारे यक्ष ने युधिष्ठिर से प्रश्न किये थे।

ये हिमालय से निकलने वाली धाराएं कोई सामान्य धाराएं नहीं हैं और जैसा कि मैंने पहले भी ‘नदी बहती रही’ में कहा है कि मनुष्य के जीवन और नदी के बहाव में अत्यधिक समानताएं हैं। जैसे मनुष्य अपने बाल्यकाल में शरारती स्वाभाव का होता है जिसे संसार के किसी भी दुःख दर्द की परवाह नहीं होती है और जिसका दिन खेलते कूदते हुए ही बीत जाता है उसी प्रकार नदी भी कंकरीली पथरीली भूमि पर बहते हुए उछलती कूदती हुई चली जाती है। जब मनुष्य परिपक्व हो जाता है उसके स्वभाव में एक गंभीरता आ जाती है, उसके निर्णयों में एक सोच समझ झलकती है उसी प्रकार नदी भी जब मैदानी भागों में प्रवेश करती है तो उसकी गति मंद पड़ जाती है मानों उसे जिम्मेदारियों के बोझ तले दबा दिया गया हो। जब मनुष्य वृद्धावस्था में प्रवेश करता है तो उसकी शक्ति क्षीण हो जाती है और ब्रह्मलीन होने के पहले उसका मन कई दिशाओं में भटकता रहता है। ठीक उसी प्रकार नदी भी सागर के पास पहुँचते पहुँचते बहुत धीमी हो जाती है, बीच में कई टापू उभर आते है और कई शाखाओं में बँट जाती है।

मनुष्य का जीवन हमेशा एक रूप में ही थोड़े ही रहा है। कभी तेज तो कभी धीमा। कभी प्रखर तो कभी समझौतावादी। कभी प्रयत्नशील तो कभी भाग्यवादी। कहीं जीत तो कहीं हार। कभी झुकना तो कभी फिर उठना। वैसे ही पानी को भी कई बार रूपांतरण करना पड़ा है। कभी बर्फ बनकर पहाड़ों पर थम गया तो कभी झरना बनकर बार बार पत्थर के विवेक पर चोट की है। कभी खेतों को सींचने के लिए थम गया तो कभी पहाड़ों को हिला देने वाली गति से चल उठा। कभी बाँध बनाकर इसे रोक दिया गया तो कभी भूस्खलन में पूरे पहाड़ आकर इसके कलेजे में धंस गये। कभी भगवान शंकर की जटा में बैठ गया तो कभी आंसू बनकर लोगों की भावनाओं की अभिव्यक्ति का साधन बना। और रैदास ने तो कहा भी है कि ‘तुम चन्दन हम पानी’ जिसमें उन्होंने पानी को सब कुछ आत्मसात करने वाला बता दिया है।

तो जब हरिद्वार में हर की पौड़ी में चण्डी देवी को निहारते हुए गंगा किनारे बैठकर सोचता हूँ कि इस बार इस आत्म मंथन से क्या लेकर जाऊंगा। मैं सोचता हूँ कि जिंदगी में इतने अनगिनत पड़ाव आते हैं कभी सुख तो कभी दुःख झेलना पड़ता है। संसार में कितनी ही असफल जिंदगियाँ हैं, कितने ही दुर्गम रास्ते हैं और कितने ही अक्षम्य अपराध मनुष्य ने किये हैं जिसके कारण उसे हारकर बैठना पड़ता है। कितनी ही बार मनुष्य अनुत्तरीय प्रश्नों के आगे निरुत्तर रह गया है और बस अपने भाग्य को कोस कर रह गया है। कई बार क्या पाया है सोचने की बजाय क्या खोया ज्यादा सोचने लगता है। तो ऐसे में मैं फिर अविरल धारा की ओर आशा भरी नज़रों से देखता हूँ कि शायद यहाँ कोई जवाब मिल जाये।

और नदी की धारा ने मुझे यहाँ भी निराश नहीं किया। कितनी बार नदी की धारा को बाँध बनाकर मंद किया गया। अलग अलग धारायें निकालकर उसको क्षत-विक्षत किया गया। उसके किनारे मानव बस्तियाँ बसाकर उसको गन्दगी ढोने का एक साधन बना दिया गया। पूजा के नाम पर कितने फूलों पत्तियों को तोड़कर उसमें समाहित कर दिया गया। और तो और वर्षा की अति होने पर उसे हानि के लिए कोसा भी गया। मैंने पूँछा नदी से कि इतनी विपरीत परिस्थितियों के बाद कभी ऐसा नहीं लगता कि जीवन जिया ही क्यों जाये। नदी की एक छोटी सी धारा मेरे पैरों के पास रुकी और कहा कि कुछ भी घटित हो, आशातीत या आशानुरूप, जीवन निर्बाध रूप से चलता रहता है। इतना कहकर वह धारा फिर अपनी राह पर चल पड़ी।

नदिया चले, चले रे धारा । तुझको चलना होगा ।
नदिया चले, चले रे धारा । तुझको चलना होगा ।